There’s a huge range of streaming devices available around the world. And many of them are Android-powered stand-alone boxes that bring the undeniably appealing Android TV system seen in many smart TVs to any TV you plug one of those boxes into. But sadly, the undisputed champion of Android streaming devices isn’t even sold in Australia. The NVidia Shield (made by a leading designer of video cards for PC video gaming) leads a vast range of Android powered devices that have several things in common – they’re affordable, packed with features and a joy to use. To get one, though, you’ll either have to buy one online or search out one of the smaller local stores that imports popular devices like the Xiaomi Mi Box.
For those shopping for a tried and trusted streaming device, though, here are our recommendations.
When Apple first launched the Apple TV, many thought it was a product looking for a reason to exist. And thanks to the rise of streaming video services, it has one. The latest version of the Apple TV – its 4th-generation offering – is a tiny black box that packs in super-fast hardware based on the iPhone, and comes with its own App Store to match. That means that aside from the usual Netflix, Stan, YouTube and more there’s also games and apps available for your TV. It’s an incredibly capable little device that’s a joy to use – right down to its ability to search for shows, actors or anything else via the built-in microphone on its touch-sensitive remote. At $239, it’s at the pricier end of the scale, but well worth it.
At a mere $109 the Telstra TV – an even smaller device than Apple’s offering – punches well above its weight for good reason. It’s actually a re-branded version of the acclaimed Roku 2 box sold in the US. This is the device to go for if you don’t care about apps, games and other stuff. You just want to stream Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now, and do it reliably. With a compact remote and no-fuss setup, this is the one to pick if you want high quality streaming from the major services without spending a fortune.
The versatile little Chromecast is available in two flavours – standard and Ultra. The standard version streams at up to 1080p and can often be found for under $50. Meanwhile, the Ultra crams some extra smarts into the tiny package to let you stream at up to 4K if you have a capable TV, and is priced at $80-90. Chromecast’s advantage is the vast range of apps available for iOS and Android that support it. Just tap on the familiar Chromecast icon in the corner of a supported app and you can not only send video to your TV, but also photos, your phone screen, live video from your phone camera, even your computer’s desktop. Cheap and easy, but more versatile than you’d think, Chromecast is the ideal entry point for those who are getting into streaming services for the first time.
Xbox One S
While the Playstation 4 is a perfectly capable streaming device, its focus is far more firmly on games. Plus, it comes at a higher price than Microsoft’s console, which launched with a heavy emphasis on streaming video. It’s equipped with the ability to easily stream Netflix in 4K (and even comes with a 4K-capable Blu-ray drive if you’re still a fan of discs). Optionally, you can take an input from a TV set top box and overlay an interactive TV guide on the screen to let you pick what to watch. The console is regularly available for under $300. And with its streaming-specific remote control only around $25, it’s a great option for those who want a future-proof streaming device that can do much, much more for your money.
Something for everyone!
Thanks to the rapid rise of Netflix and Stan, the range of devices you can use to get streaming services to your TV is constantly expanding. If you’re looking for a device right now that’ll give you access to every major streaming service on offer, the above options will serve you well. And with prices starting at $50 they won’t break the bank either.